That trend is inevitable, since cybercrooks are finding in mobile such green field opportunities as SMS monetization, while more users are leaving traditional PCs/laptops to use mobile devices more often for communication, the report said.
LTE devices are twice as likely as others to be infected. However, Alcatel-Lucent said blaming the plague on 4G LTE network technology might be misguided. Instead, what needs to be closely studied is "the behavior of LTE device owners, who do a lot more with data and spend more time browsing." On average, an LTE user will consume twice as much data, including 50% more video, than a 3G user.
One worrisome trend that emerged in 2013 is that mobile spyware turns infected smartphones and tablets into cyberespionage devices, according to McNamee.
When asked to elaborate, he said the principle is no different from "spy phone" software prevalent on the consumer market. "You purchase it and install it on your girlfriend's phone, for example." It allows you to track her location remotely, download her contact lists, intercept and send messages, record conversation, and take pictures. "Of course, it can be a legitimate usage if you do this on your children's phones. If you do it on your husband's phone, it's kind of on the edge, but if you do it on the phones of your business partners or strangers, it's beyond that borderline."
When spyware -- similar consumer spy-phone software -- is applied to mobile devices, smartphones become ideal for "advanced persistent threat and cyber espionage attacks against corporate and government networks." Malware deployed on a smartphone can "literally communicate 24/7 through the air, bypassing all corporate security measures." The attacker can "track down your phone's location, monitor phone calls, record conversation and even take pictures and videos."
Kevin McNamee, security architect and director of Alcatel-Lucent's Kindsight Security Labs, shows a spy phone demo.
(Source: Kindsight Security Labs)
McNamee said turning an ordinary Android phone into a spy phone is as easy as injecting spy phone software into a copy of Angry Birds and sending an email suggesting that the victim go to the website and install the game.
What to expect next
Kindsight Labs says mobile botnets -- a network of infected computers controlled remotely via the Internet by cybercriminals -- exist today but are not as extensive and disruptive as the Windows/PC variety. That, however, is quickly changing.
Some mobile botnets specialize in SMS spam, the security team said. It predicted that such botnets will grow significantly "as cyber criminals realize that it's more cost-effective to have SMS spam delivered by a botnet than a farm of real phones with unregistered SIM cards."
Botnet-based distributed denial-of-service (DDosS) attacks can also move into the mobile space, the report said. DDoS is an attempt to make a machine or network resource unavailable to its intended users. "It would be possible to direct the attack at the 1-800 number used for inquiries, support and sales."
Another area of concerns is hacktivism. "Imagine an underground hacktivism organization that provided their own app for Android and iPhone." The app presumably would allow the coordination of hacktivism activities and facilitate coordinated DDoS attacks against government, industry and infrastructure.
Other industry reports have also sounded alarms on mobile security. The Kindsight Labs findings broadly confirm the results of Lookout's "State of Mobile Security 2012" report and NQ Mobile's "2013 Mid Year Mobile Security Report."
— Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent, EE Times